Afterthoughts – Carnivore’s Feast at Blue Butcher
As a child, I was fascinated with dinosaurs (actually, I still am), and could rattle off over 20-30 complicated latin dino names. I always figured that if I were a “terrible lizard” in a past life, I would be a T-Rex, not only because I have tiny forearms, but because I love, love. love, meat.
Which brings me to my latest carnivore feast at Blue Butcher, a mecca for meat lovers. I’ve previously visited this divine establishment, but forgot to bring my camera, so when a friend invited me to dinner, I jumped at the opportunity.
Blue Butcher is the brainchild of Malcolm Wood (banker-turned-restauranteur extraordinaire), who’s Maximal Concept portfolio also includes Brickhouse and Play. I sat down with one of the owners, and their PR manager Coco Chan to taste (or more like devour) some of their favourites on the menu.
We started the evening with some uplifting libations – gingerbread cocktails with a candied ginger twist. I was expecting something overly sweet and cakey, but was pleasantly surprised by the refreshing ginger notes and warm spices. It felt like “spa in a glass” and the candied ginger was wafer thin yet so flavourful. I could have eaten a whole bag of these, and I don’t even like ginger! (I also love the small quirky details that really set the tone of the restaurant, like the chopping knife embroidery on the napkin)
After throwing back our first cocktails, we took a tour around and I drooled at the sight of the meat locker. Literally – shelves and shelves of beautiful aging wagyu in a salt block lined walk-in fridge. Blue Butcher ages their meats for an average of 30 days, and the halite bricks help add flavour during the process. If you have a large party of 8 or more, you can even bring your own meat beforehand, age it in the locker, and have the chefs cook it up. So, for that “wow” factor, why not bring your own cow? Talk about a totally customized experience.
Of course the tour gravitated towards the bar, and I had the pleasure of meeting their chief mixologist, Suraj Gurung. This guy is truly passionate about his craft, and home-makes all his signature liqueurs. His bar is like an apothecary shop, full of mysterious jars and bottles.
Pictured below is what looks deceivingly like a condiments tray, but is in fact full of syrups / flavoured infusions to add to cocktails. So I guess, in a sense, it is a condiment tray, but for cocktails. On the left hand side of the photo is Suraj’s homemade “bacon-washed” vodka. He first fries up a rasher of bacon and distills out the flavourful fat, which he mixes into the liquor (eeckk!). Then he allows the flavours to marry together in the fridge for around 6 hours, and double distills all the fat out of the vodka. What you are left with is a clean liquor with not a drop of fat, but all the flavour of crisp, smokey bacon.
His apple cocktail is equally amazing, of which he combines homemade stewed apples with cider and freshly squeeze apple juice from “a guy down the street”.
Suraj is like a Martha Stewart behind the bar, and even makes his own limoncello and rumbullion.
A refreshing mint mojito-like concoction.
The yummiest drink of the evening was their new Christmas-themed special – Eggnog. I loved this drink – it tasted like melted ice cream, but R-rated with the perfect dose of alcohol.
There’s a lot of science behind the making of this cocktail. For example, the egg and milk must be mixed together before ice can be added, or else the ice cubes will activate a certain enzyme in the egg that stops it from emulsifying.
Only after the initial mixing can ice cubes be added, and they must be shaken “Japanese style” with a circular motion so that the ice cubes rotate inside the shaker instead of knocking back and forth, which will break the ice and dilute the cocktail.
Below – Suraj demonstrating the tricky “Japanese style” shake
After the cocktail is shaken, the ice cube should only be slightly rounded. This insures that the cocktail is thoroughly chilled but not diluted.
I also tried some pickled okra, which sounds gross but was absolutely yummy with a hint of garlic. It made me feel like I was in Louisiana.
Back at the table, we sampled a trio of appetizers. On a previous visit, I loved the bone marrow starter. This time, we decided to try a few new items.
First up is a refreshing plate of “compressed” organic tomato and burrata, sitting in a basil infusion. The tomatoes are peeled and then compressed with white balsamic in a sous vide bag for hours. The result is a tomato that is still fresh and crisp, yet infused completely with tangy sweet balsamic. The freshness of the tomato paired well with the creamy smooth burrata, one of my favourite cheeses.
Second, was a classic combo of savoury Spanish ham, asparagus, mushrooms and egg. However, nothing is conventional at Blue Butcher, and the egg has been slowly sous vide for hours at 62 degrees celsius. The result is an egg that looks poached but has more of the consistency of gel. I loved it because it made the egg last so much longer in my mouth!
Our third appetizer was a seared quail with smoked grapes. I am usually hesitant about ordering quail, because it requires a lot of effort to eat, but the juiciness of the little birdie morsels more than compensated for the extra knife work. The smoked grapes were a surprise, as I expected them to be cooked. Au contraire, they still retained their plump juiciness, although with a strong kick of hickory.
Now, on to the mains! Coco raved about the roasted poulet francaise, and I just had to try some for myself. The chicken was sous vide, and then flash grilled to give it that hickory smokiness. It was incredibly tender and juicy (thanks to the sous vide) with a crisp caramelized skin (thanks to the flash grill). The little pearl onions were sweet treats alongside the juicy chicken. (I also loved the rustic presentation of the dish, it conjures up images of shared meals in Provence)
Next we had the night’s special of wagyu shortrib, ox tongue and sweet bread, paired with fresh morel mushrooms. This dish is like a carnivore’s dream, and the savoury morel packed a powerful flavour punch alongside the sweet, almost balsamic-like coated meat.
Lastly, as if we weren’t full already, came the slow cooked kurobuta pork chop with stewed apples and honey jus. This was also sous vide to retain the juices, although I must say that it still cannot beat the ultimate pork chop I had at Press in St. Helena’s, Napa.
We also had a trio of sides: wilted spinach, fat chips (yum!!), and creamed corn. Being northern Chinese, I naturally loved the corn the most, and the thick cream was overindulgence at it’s best.
Even when you are bursting at the seams, there is always room for dessert.
I am a big fan of Eton mess – I love the contrast between fresh strawberry and crunchy meringue. The Eton mess at Blue Butcher is also topped up with a hefty ball of basil sorbet. I must confess that I wished there were more meringue pieces in this dish, but loved the zingy earthiness of the basil. Some people might be put off by herbs in ice cream, but I think it’s a brilliant idea and the perfect palate cleanser.
Compliments of Adam, our server, who brought over this little pot of heaven, topped with crushed berries.
My favourite dessert of the evening was the chocolate bread and butter pudding with rum banana ice cream. The crust was very crispy and the inside incredibly gooey and eggy. This is the perfect finish to a winter’s meal, and sure to warm you on the walk home. The rum banana ice cream was REALLY strong, and if melted, could become a cocktail!
All that good food, capped off with yet another cocktail – the black mojito. A spiced rum brew that exulted festive cheer.
Verdict: YES!!! Definitely worth many return visits. This is a true carnivore’s den, with quality ingredients sourced and cooked with dedication. A lot of thought went into the menu, and this attention to details is reflected in each dish. I love the farm-to- table philosophy, and the decor of rustic wood tables (made from salvaged wood), and antique knick nacks resonates the restaurant’s organic, pastoral chic theme. The service is impeccable, with friendly, outgoing staff who really know the menu stone-cold, and can even take you through the cooking process of each dish. This is a rarity in Hong Kong, and the level of service reminds me of the sort you get at quality North American restaurants. It’s so important to have great staff, because not only do they set the mood for the overall dining experience, they are also the front line sales for the “products” aka food items.
I guess the menu could be considered fine dining, but without any pomp. This is a great place to come and relax over a solid meal with great friends.
108 Hollywood Road, Central
Tel: 2613 9286